Gardner's sights remain on top eight

The Northern Echo: TOP EIGHT HOPES: Craig Gardner TOP EIGHT HOPES: Craig Gardner

DESPITE slipping out of the top ten after Monday's defeat at Everton, Craig Gardner insists Sunderland can still achieve a top eight finish this season.

Having bounced back from their disappointing exit from the FA Cup with draws against Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, the Black Cats came crashing back down to earth at Goodison Park.

The result saw Martin O'Neill's team drop to 11th in the Premier League after Norwich City came from behind to beat Spurs, but Gardner is confident Sunderland can better last season's tenth place finish.

The Black Cats have already demonstrated this season they are capable of responding well after defeats and the midfielder insists the squad are out to put Monday's horror show right.

"We don't have a target of how many games we want to win, we just want to finish as high as we can," Gardner said.

"Hopefully we can finish in the top eight and if we do that we've had a great season.

"To finish there and get to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, I think that's a really good season, but we need to get out there and put it right starting on Saturday.

"It's hard to take to be honest, we've gone to Man City and we got a great result there, although we should have won.

"We had a good result against Tottenham and if we'd come here and got a result it would have been a brilliant three games for us.

"We've got five games left so we just need to win as many as we can between now and the end of the season.

"We need to bounce back quickly, we did that after the Everton defeat. I think everyone thought we'd go to Man City and get a hiding, but we were 3-1 up with ten minutes to go.

"We've shown a number of times this season we can respond well to a bad defeat and we'll try and do that again next weekend."

Monday's performance on Merseyside was perhaps a hangover from the efforts of the past week, but Gardner believes the fact it was their second game in three days is no excuse.

The Black Cats capitulated after going behind to Magaye Gueye's 52nd minute finish before three more goals capped off a disastrous six minutes for O'Neill's men.

Gardner revealed a full inquest will be held into the performance, but insists the squad must not dwell on it for too long.

"We're not just going to draw a line under it, we need look at some points, watch the video and see what we can do better in different situations, but we can't dwell on it too long, because it's a defeat and when you get beat you need to move on to the next game as quickly as possible,'' he said.

"It's difficult to play two games in three days, I'm not making up excuses, because both teams have done it and a lot of teams have done it, but fair play to Everton, they worked hard and did well.

"I think they went 1-0 up and found that extra 15-20 per cent and got the two goals in quick succession, which kicked us in the teeth, but it's unlike us to come away and lose like that.

"We're normally hard to beat. We've shown that against Man City and all season really, but as I say we need to move on now and get three points on Saturday."

The Black Cats face struggling Wolves at the Stadium of Light this weekend with Terry Connor's side looking for their first win in eight games.

The Black Country side are six points adrift at the foot of the Premier League table ahead of their home game with Arsenal tonight, but Gardner insists the struggling side will come to Wearside fighting for their lives.

He said: "Wolves aren't relegated yet, you never know what can happen and they'll be fighting for every point.

"When I was at Birmingham last season, I thought we were going to be safe and we ended up going down.

"You can never be sure in this league anything can happen so we need to be on our game on Saturday and make sure we get a result."

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